I was on my way to the local farmer’s market this morning thinking about writing this column. In honor of National Nutrition Month, I decided to address an often-asked question regarding nutrition derived from today’s food…
Q: “Do I really need to take vitamins or supplements?”
A: In 1936, during the 74th U.S. Congress, a Florida Senator placed the following statement on the congressional record: “Poor farming methods have led to mineral-depleted soils resulting in mineral-deficient plants, livestock, and people…the alarming fact is that foods now being raised on millions of acres of land, that no longer contain enough of certain minerals, are starving us–no matter how much of them we eat. No man of today can eat enough fruits and vegetables to supply his system with the minerals he requires for perfect health because his stomach isn’t big enough to hold them. Laboratory tests prove that the fruits, vegetables, grains, eggs, and even the milk and meats of today are not what they were a few generations ago. It is bad news to learn from our leading authorities that 99 percent of the American people are deficient in these minerals.”
Today’s studies show that the vitamins and minerals in our food continue to decline. Vital nutrients have dramatically decreased in some of our most popular foods. The average potato has lost 100% of its vitamin A which is important for good eyesight; 57% of its vitamin C and iron, key components of healthy blood; and 28% of its calcium, essential for building healthy bones and teeth. Potatoes also lost 50% of their riboflavin and 18% of thiamine.
Organic vs. Non-organic
Consider two eggs. One egg has a bright orange yolk and is from an organically-raised free range chicken. The other egg has a pale yolk and comes from a hen raised indoors on a factory farm. The egg from the organic free range hen contains up to 30% more vitamin E, 50% more folic acid and 30% more vitamin B-12 than the factory egg. The bright orange color of the yolk shows higher levels of antioxidant carotenes.
According to a report prepared for The Soil Association of the United Kingdom, organic crops appear to be higher in vitamin C, essential minerals and phytonutrients. An Italian study found organic pears, peaches and oranges have higher antioxidant levels than their conventional counterparts. Organic fruits and vegetables have only a third as many pesticide residues as their conventionally grown counterparts, according to a study by Consumers Union (CU) and the Organic Materials Review Institute.
It is safe to say that organic whole foods have greater nutrient content and fewer toxins for our body to absorb. However, even the organic whole foods do not contain the nutrients we require to sustain 100% health. This is where supplements may enhance sustained health.
Whole food vs. synthetic supplements
If foods we are eating today lack the nutrients found in food 100+ years ago, then most health practitioners today would agree that whole foods are better for us than refined or processed foods. Therefore logic should prevail that whole food supplements should be better for us than synthetic vitamins and supplements.
Whole food supplements are derived from concentrated whole foods. These vitamins are combined with enzymes, co-enzymes, antioxidants, trace elements and other natural factors, to enable whole foods to nourish your body. Synthetic vitamins and supplements are isolated unto themselves. Synthetic B vitamins have no enzymes or co-factors associated with them. They are isolated and stand alone and have no other substances with which to act synergistically and are thus, less beneficial than whole food supplements.
Start by eating the proper foods
The foundation for good health is eating the proper whole foods to meet your individual needs and having a properly functioning digestive system. When the quality of food ingested and the digestive system are both optimal, the body will slow down the aging of cells, balance hormone levels, and keep the immune system strong. You will feel great on an emotional level due to improved serotonin or neurotransmitter levels in your brain.
I regularly see people who have abused their bodies with a lifestyle of eating processed or invented foods. As a consequence, their health is always suffering. It is not OK to ingest chemicals and processed foods. We are not made from aspartame, hydrogenated fats, potato chips, tortillas, caffeine or the chemicals in cigarette smoke. The body repairs itself only with the elements found in whole foods and whole food supplements.
Eating whole, non-processed food and taking concentrated whole food supplements may help overcome nutritional deficiencies. To maintain good health, a balance must be sought in all aspects of your life including physical, emotional and spiritual well-being.
Jim Harris is a Naturopath and Nutritional Consultant at The Art of Wellness Center in Palm Springs. Submit your nutrition questions to Jim via email: [email protected]. www.theartofwellnesscenter.com